Mass Merchants/Clubs Maintain Almost One-Third of Top 50 Sales

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NEW YORK—During a slow economic recovery, 2012 optical sales by leading mass merchandising chains and warehouse clubs grew by an estimated 4.6 percent from an estimated $2,439.2 million in 2011 to an estimated $2,551.4 million in 2012, representing 31.6 percent of Top 50 sales for 2012. This portion of overall Top 50 U.S. optical sales is on par from the 31.7 percent it comprised last year.

Their combined number of in-store vision centers in mass merchandising chains and warehouse clubs, however, grew an estimated 1.7 percent from an estimated 4,420 in 2011 to an estimated 4,494 in 2012.

Wal-Mart Stores firmly held its number one position with an estimated 2,837 optical locations generating an estimated $1,469.0 million in sales for 2012. For 2011, Wal-Mart Stores’ unit figures and sales revenues for 2011 were adjusted to reflect company revisions in these numbers.

A major change at the end of last year for both Walmart Vision Centers and Sam’s Club Optical (number three in the Mass Merchant/Warehouse Club ranking and also a part of Wal-Mart Stores) was the termination of a four-year strategic alliance with 1-800 CONTACTS for the sale of contact lenses. This followed the June 2012 acquisition of 1-800 CONTACTS by WellPoint, one of the country’s largest health care organizations.

Walmart and Sam’s Club subsequently launched all-new online and phone contact lens programs and announced the introduction of Walmart’s own private Equate brand of contact lenses. The new contact lens sites are powered by Arlington Lens Supply, owned by National Vision, Inc. (the fourth largest U.S. optical retailer), which acquired Columbus, Ohio-based AC Lens in June 2011.

Rounding out the leading mass merchant/warehouse clubs are Shopko Stores at number four with 139 stores generating an estimated $90 million in sales, Luxottica Retail’s 331 licensed optical locations in Target and Super Target stores with an estimated $76 million in sales, Refac’s 180 BJ’s opticals’ estimated $65 million in sales, and National Vision’s 31 Fred Meyer optical locations with an estimated $9.6 million in sales.

jsailer@jobson.com